Upper Field Piglets

Piglets Nursing in Upper Field

These are some of the sixty or so piglets that were born last month. They are just along the edge of a small wooded patch we left when clearing the new fields. The pigs like these margin areas. The retreat under the trees in inclement weather. With the tight cover of conifers it is almost like a shed.

We had a cluster of births so now there are month old piglets all over the place in both the north and south fields. We have opened up the boundary between the two fields so that the groups can get to know each other again in preparation for migrating the north herd south up over the mountain for the winter.

Outdoors: 51°F/35°F Mostly Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 67°F/65°F

Daily Spark: Freterization – people who get together and worry.

About Walter Jeffries

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9 Responses to Upper Field Piglets

  1. David Lloyd Sutton says:

    Walter, do you recombine your herds in winter time? I thought you maintained them as separate breeding units year round. Or are you just regrouping parts of one herd for a geographical shift? Nice looking shoats!!

    • In the past we had maintained two separate herds and then crossed breeders back and forth as needed. This winter we are moving the north south in preparation for restructuring how we handle pig herds in the future in anticipation of having our own on-farm butcher shop. Next spring the breeders will move back north. This will give us a natural cycle around the farm from breed to finish that ends in the lairage on finishing. By giving the pigs a couple of months to get socialized this fall we minimize any fighting. They can get to know each other while they still have the wide open fields of the warm months before cold closes in and they’re on the winter paddocks.

      Since almost all the live piglets we sell are males, sucklings are males, roasters are males and males are faster growing to finisher size this means that by the time the gilts get to finisher age the females vastly out number the males.

      One of the things the future paddock setup will have is the ability to separate finisher and roaster age pigs by sex if we decide to do that. In fact, that is part of the setup for this winter incase we decide to implement it. This has more to do with the fact that managing groups of 30 to 60 pigs is easier than 200 than anything else.

  2. Dave says:

    Walter, I understand the thought process of the groups leading up to the lairage. What is puzzling to me, if the breeders are north doing their thing, is what prevents the southern heard from developing a new social order and doing their own breeding with the boys who remain in town? Are all these finishing pigs sent to slaughter before breeding age?

    • The “boys”, and the girls, will do some fooling around but aren’t really fertile until after slaughter age. Gilts generally take for the first time at about eight months and farrow their first litter at twelve months. Boars don’t really become fertile until as early as about 7 months although they will try hard before that. It isn’t until they’re 10 months old that they really hit their fertility. Most market pigs are already on their way long before that. Since the boys grow faster they tend to go earlier than the girls.

  3. Susan says:

    Those are gorgeous piglets. One of the things that really impresses me about your operations is how great your animals look. You have so many wonderful photos and they are in such wonderful condition. It proves just how well your pasturing methods work. I and my partner are believers. We’re adapting your methods to our little farmette here.

  4. Fredrick Wathers says:

    My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work! Love them piggies on pasture and my plate!

  5. A question has come up as to proper feed ration for pre- and post-partum sows. In a nutshell, we ramped up our gilt’s feed ration (an organic non-soy custom mix) as she got closer to farrowing (she is on pasture / woodlot with grasses, clovers, forbs, roots, grubs, etc.). Once she farrowed we backed her ration back down to our normal daily mature pig quantity and trusted her to augment any additional needs from pasture.

    Is this proper protocol in your opinion or should we also have increased feed ration in front of her while she’s lactating? I’m under impression that your sows garner most of their nutrition from their paddocks and that is the model I’m trying to emulate.

    Here is link to the google+ thread behind the question: http://goo.gl/zFVBz. Thanks!

    • Our pigs get free fed pasture/hay and dairy. When they’re hungrier and need more food such as during gestation and nursing they eat more – I don’t do anything in particular to provide them more during these times since food is always freely available to them. Our pastures are rich in protein from legumes such as alfalfa and clover plus other forages. The dairy offers the lysine missing from pasture plus some extra calories. They seem to do a good job of balancing what they need.

      We have never had a problem with overeating although I have read that can be a serious problem with confinement sows fed candy, er, I mean pig chow. I suspect that is because the pigs in a small pen fed commercial corn/soy meal don’t have to work for a living, they’re couch potatoes who just sit around watching the telly or what ever it is that they have for entertainment at CAFOs. :) Since pastured have to go out gather their own food, hiking up the mountain and back, they get a lot of exercise and don’t eat out of boredom.

      Politics of factory farming aside – since you’re not doing that – if you are feeding a controlled ration then I would suggest increasing it during gestation and during lactation as the sow needs the extra food for the growing fetuses in her belly and then the production of milk for her piglets. During gestation she needs an increase in protein. During lactation it is an increase in calories that she needs.

      I would watch her condition. If she’s getting peakid then she’s not getting enough food so give her more. If she’s getting fat and jowly then she’s getting too much and it is time to cut back. Use a keen eye. It comes in time. Always observe.

      • Okay, great. This is very helpful and I better understand your model as well. Thus far our sow seems to be doing well and her condition is still good. However, I’m inclined to increase her feed ration until we get the olfactory feedback that she’s getting too much protein. Since we are still very wet behind the ears with all of this probably best to err on the side of too much chow rather than too little. Thanks!

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